Can Dyson hoover up car sales?

Vac­uum cleaner maker to use solid-state bat­ter­ies in rad­i­cal EV

Auto Car (UK) - - THIS WEEK - MARK TIS­SHAW

EV plan un­cov­ered

Adopt­ing solid-state bat­ter­ies would be a po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant point of dif­fer­ence for Dyson

Dyson, the vac­uum cleaner maker, aims to go one step fur­ther than Ap­ple and Google by mak­ing its own elec­tric car – and claims that it will be in pro­duc­tion in just three years.

Dyson, which re­vealed the first de­tails of its am­bi­tious plan last week, will fol­low the ex­am­ple of Tesla in cre­at­ing its own new model from scratch, de­vel­op­ing the hard­ware and soft­ware with­out part­ner­ing an ex­ist­ing car maker.

Both Ap­ple and Google, the lat­ter through its off­shoot Waymo, have al­ready aban­doned plans to make their own cars as they be­lieve the process to be too com­plex. In­stead, they will de­velop self-driv­ing car tech­nol­ogy for ex­ist­ing car mak­ers.

Dyson’s switch from vac­uum clean­ers, hand dry­ers, fans and hairdry­ers to cars is un­prece­dented in mod­ern times. Tesla, like other EV star­tups, was orig­i­nally cre­ated with the sole in­ten­tion of mak­ing elec­tric cars, al­though it has since ex­panded.

Dyson boss and founder Sir James Dyson has wanted to make cars since the 1980s, and has ramped up plans in the past two years by re­cruit­ing en­gi­neers at his Malmes­bury base in Wilt­shire. Dyson has 400 en­gi­neers al­ready work­ing on the project, among them for­mer As­ton Mar­tin de­vel­op­ment boss Ian Mi­nards, who is Dyson’s global prod­uct de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor.

Dyson re­vealed few of the project’s specifics last week, but did con­firm that he is in­vest­ing £2 bil­lion into it, with the money split be­tween ve­hi­cle de­vel­op­ment and bat­tery tech­nol­ogy. The govern­ment is also con­tribut­ing £174 mil­lion.

The type of car is not yet known; Dyson does not yet have a design for the project, nor even a pro­to­type. How­ever, Dyson con­firmed it would not be a pre­mium, rather than a mass-mar­ket, prod­uct. He also re­vealed that there were plans for more cars in the fu­ture.

It is bat­tery tech­nol­ogy where Dyson be­lieves he has an ad­van­tage. He in­tends to adopt solid-state bat­ter­ies to power his firm’s elec­tric cars. They are of a much higher den­sity and quicker to charge than liq­uid-cells, cooler while op­er­at­ing and po­ten­tially more pow­er­ful, mean­ing that fewer are needed and weight can be re­duced.

No other car maker is any­where near hav­ing solid­state bat­ter­ies in pro­duc­tion (Toy­ota has said it ex­pects the tech­nol­ogy in the next decade), so it would in­deed be a po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant point of dif­fer­ence for Dyson.

China would be a key mar­ket for Dyson, given both the brand’s pop­u­lar­ity there and that the car could be pro­duced in the Far East, al­though that de­ci­sion has yet to be de­cided. De­vel­op­ment would be in the UK, though, with a ded­i­cated Dyson car de­vel­op­ment cen­tre due to open next year.

Dyson told Reuters: “Wher­ever we make the bat­tery, we’ll make the car – that’s log­i­cal. So we want to be near our sup­pli­ers, we want to be in a place that wel­comes us

and is friendly to us, and where it is lo­gis­ti­cally most sen­si­ble. And we see a very large mar­ket for this car in the Far East.”

In an email to staff con­firm­ing the ven­ture, Sir James cited solv­ing airqual­ity prob­lems as the main mo­ti­va­tion be­hind it.

He added: “In March 1990, a team at Dyson be­gan work on a cy­clonic fil­ter that could be fit­ted on a ve­hi­cle’s ex­haust fil­ter to trap par­tic­u­lates. By 1993, we had de­vel­oped sev­eral work­ing pro­to­types and showed an early it­er­a­tion to [chil­dren’s BBC TV show] Blue Peter. To our cha­grin, no­body at the time was in­ter­ested in em­ploy­ing our diesel ex­haust cap­ture sys­tem and we stopped the project.”

Dyson sent an email to staff an­nounc­ing his am­bi­tious project

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